Democrat President Joe Biden’s State Department has announced that U.S. taxpayers will be giving $99 million in funding to a United Nations agency that aids Palestinian refugees.
The controversial United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was formed in 1949 in response to the refugee crisis which began after the first war between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
That refugee crisis and the UN agency continue to this day.
Millions to UN Palestinian agency
The State Department’s Population, Refugees, and Migrations Bureau says that the funds are intended to provide education and healthcare to Palestinian children through UNRWA.
UNRWA is funded by voluntary contributions from UN member states. Those voluntary contributions have not always been readily available for the sometimes controversial agency.
Critics and states cutting back on contributions have accused the agency of corruption, mismanagement, and spreading anti-Israeli sentiments amongst Palestinians.
American politicians have expressed concerns that money being sent to the agency is being diverted from its intended purpose and used to support extremism.
One glaring issue is the age of the venerable organization itself. UNRWA has operated continuously on foreign funding since it was created in 1949.
Why is there still a Palestinian refugee problem at all decades after the end of the 1948 war and with so much money sent to UNRWA through the ensuing years?
Refugees still in limbo after decades
Unfortunately, the problem might be inextricable from the always bitter and contentious question of Israeli-Palestinian relations as a whole.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the 1948 war, making room for the thousands of Jews who fled from Arab countries after the war.
Descendants of the Palestinian refugees are still languishing in that uncertain status all these years later.
The refugees have effectively been pawns used by all sides.
Arab states have refused to recognize Palestinians as citizens despite their close ethnic and cultural ties, instead maintaining their refugee status.
This is ostensibly to maintain the commitment to return them to their homes but it has left millions of people in a stateless limbo.
Western governments have to some extent dodged the thorny issue by propping up organizations like UNRWA.
It may be corrupt and inefficient but it’s much easier than trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The controversial agency may not be doing too much good for the Palestinians but it would be difficult to kill it now and if it were dismantled there might be a new outburst of violence.